At a packed Law Society Special General Meeting on Tuesday 17 December, the Law Society leadership lost a vote of no confidence.
For victims of wrongful arrest by the police (also known as ‘false imprisonment’), the vote might turn out to have important consequences.
Criminal solicitor, James Parry of Liverpool firm Parry Welch Lacey led the campaign. He is convinced that the Government’s proposed cuts to criminal legal aid would be devastating for criminal lawyers.
The Government’s plan to cut the legal aid budget would see criminal solicitors’ fees reduced by 17.5%. As many firms already run on shoe-string budgets, the reduction is likely to put a great number of experienced criminal solicitors out of business.
At the meeting in London Mr. Parry said that the Government’s proposals ‘threatened the very existence of the criminal justice system’ and called on the Law Society leadership to take a more aggressive approach in fighting the cuts.
But despite losing the vote of no confidence, the President and CEO of the Law Society have not resigned. Instead, the President, Nick Fluck, insists that they ‘will redouble our efforts, reaffirm our commitment to cuts and continue the fight’.
Wrongful Arrest Representation
So, why does this matter, and how might it affect future victims of wrongful arrest by the police?
Criminal lawyers like James Parry have many years’ experience in their fields. They know the criminal law, and police procedures, inside out. They routinely represent clients at police stations and in courts. They know the good, decent police officers, and those who will try to take advantage.
Importantly, they know when someone has been a victim of wrongful arrest and how to handle that situation in a police station or court. Then the innocent victim has the best chance of success in their compensation claim against the police.
These solicitors also have the right contacts, so they can put the wrongful arrest victim in touch with expert solicitors to represent them in this specialised area of law.
So what happens if solicitors like Mr. Parry and his fellow campaigners against the Law Society leadership are forced out of the profession by Government cuts? Will their replacements be up to the job?
I doubt it.
It does not take a massive leap of imagination to anticipate that without expert representation at the police station some police officers will take advantage.
As a result, wrongful arrest cases will increase, and more innocent people will suffer due to police misconduct.
Criminal Solicitors Role in Wrongful Arrest Cases
So this affects us all.
As the case report of my client Mr. D shows (click on this link to read it), even after his wrongful arrest the police made him wait for a (criminal) Duty Solicitor before releasing vital information which he could use to show that a police arrest warrant had been negligently obtained.
Mr. D waited 13 hours in police custody. How much more would it have been without expert advice from his criminal lawyer?
Similarly, Mr. D’s wrongful arrest claim succeeded because he instructed expert lawyers in my firm, Donoghue Solicitors, to pursue his police warrant claims.
As we are a specialist firm who deal with police misconduct cases we were able to fight and win his claim when others might not.
Access to Justice and Expertise Threatened
Having the necessary expertise is essential when representing people in criminal and civil cases.
By forcing the vote of no confidence this week, Mr. Parry and his colleagues have reminded the Law Society leadership of their duty to fight the Government on the cuts and so keep the profession intact.
By doing so, they have done us all, and especially future victims of wrongful arrest by the police, a great service.
If you are a victim of wrongful arrest by the police and want expert help with a compensation claim, contact Donoghue Solicitors on 08000 124 246 or see our website for more details.